In the copyright monopoly debate, there’s significant confusion about how a market economy works, and what constitutes a right to remuneration of any kind.
There is exactly one action that entitles somebody to money, and that is an agreement that money should be paid in exchange for a good or service, otherwise known as a “sale”. There are exactly zero other things that entitle somebody to payment.
When somebody views a movie through a window? Nobody is entitled to money.
When somebody listens to a street performer? Nobody is entitled to money.
When somebody plays a video game at a friend’s? Nobody is entitled to money.
When somebody copies said video game from their friend? Nobody is entitled to money.
When somebody walks into a store and agrees to exchange money for a good? Then, and only then, is somebody entitled to money. Only then.
There are absolutely zero excuses for “wanting” money but not “getting” it. If you’re not able or willing to find a counterparty with whom to perform an exchange on mutually agreed terms, you’re entitled to exactly nothing. Just like everybody else. Specifically including people who create art and want to be paid for creating art, or for that matter, anybody doing anything they like. Nobody owns the fuzzy, wishy-washy and generally handwavy “fruits of their labor”. They own exactly what they can exchange in a mutually negotiated transaction with a voluntary and willing counterparty. Nothing less, nothing more.
This is called a market economy, and it works so vastly superior to all other alternatives tried because all people do their own valuations of the value of goods or services all the time in a decentralized fashion, rather than somebody centralized trying to establish a “proper” value for goods and services. That kind of hubris has been tried from time to time in various forms of centralization of the economy, and it has always resulted in either huge shortages, or huge surplus stocks resulting in huge shortages elsewhere. Nobody simply has the brainpower to assess the continuous valuation and re-valuation of millions of other people.
When planned economies have been tried – notably under communism – they look fine on the surface until too many people are starving and lack basic hygiene essentials because of said shortages. At that point, the first protesters are generally jailed as political prisoners. Sometimes, they’re murdered by the regime “for the cause”, whatever that is – the murdered generally don’t care. Eventually, the whole fairytale idea of one person being a better valuator of something than millions of people doing the same thing breaks down, and the Maskirovka falls.
The copyright monopoly is a strong limitation of the property rights that are essential to a market economy, and indeed a limitation of the market economy itself. The copyright monopoly is therefore not just completely immoral from this angle, but also damaging to the economy as a whole.
So what does this have to do with the “authors must be paid” cliché? Everything. Since you’re neither buyer nor seller, you’re not a party to the transaction. Therefore, frankly and literally, it’s none of your business. When a third party makes a copy of a game, a third party who was not party to the original transaction, that third party has absolutely no obligation whatsoever to the parties in the original transaction: no sale has been made.
When you’re repeating the blatant cliché of “authors must be paid”, you’re asserting a right to intervene in a market transaction between two parties where you were not involved in the transaction or negotiations. This is the direct opposite of a market economy. And when suggesting the cliché as a rule, or law, you’re advocating a planned interventionary economy – literally a communist economy.
Put differently, other people’s business failures are neither your moral, legal, or business problem to solve. Trying to blame your customer’s morals for the weaknesses in your own business plan – your inability to find a voluntary counterparty with whom to make an exchange, a “sale” – is the last step before your business dies, and frankly, it’s rather unworthy. This is where the copyright industry is currently finding itself.
And as we’ve seen before, making a copy of something – in violation of the copyright monopoly or not, that doesn’t matter – is merely exercising your own property rights: rearranging the magnetic fields on your own property according to what you’re observing with your own tools and senses. Suggesting such an action to constitute a fantasy voluntary agreed transaction with a fantasy counterparty is suggesting a planned economy, the kind that didn’t work at all under communism.
About The Author
Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at falkvinge.net focuses on information policy.
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